Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Bach Christmas Oratorio, from the Soprano Section

We sang the Bach Christmas Oratorio last night.

And we rocked.

Yay. I'll say it again. In red, just to prove a point: We rocked!

What a huge work. What an awesome concert. What an amazing choir. What fabulous soloists. What a terrific orchestra. What a wonderful conductor.

I think everyone was nervous to begin with. I know I was. It didn't help that those terrible lights were so hot that I felt like I was sitting in a sauna. Before we were up to the ninth movement, my hands were firmly stuck to the PVC of my folder, and the sweat (yes, I know ladies are supposed to 'perspire' but I was sweating!) was starting to bead on my brow. Jenny Craig's new method - weight loss via Oratorio.

I'd like to say things soon settled into a groove, but for me they didn't. Every movement had edge-of-my-seat nervousness, and it was not helped by a spell of dizziness early on that left me feel disoriented and out of sorts. Being right up the back of the choir suits me well - I like to rely on myself rather than others - but in this case, feeling unwell, I'd have preferred to be a little less out on a limb, tucked in neatly down front with a bit more sound to fall back on for a while. Oh well.

The soloists did a great job. I did feel particularly sorry for the Tenor in Aria 41: Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben. Bach was just cruel to make this a da capo. Getting through this once was bad enough, and then the poor dude had to do it all again! Nasty.

Speaking of which I am not, and never will be, a fan of da capo. It's a bit of cheat. Run out of music, so chuck in a repeat and get everyone to do it all again. You could see people in the audience thinking 'huh?' Off with da capo, I say!

The concert had some top moments. Highlights included 1: Jauchzet, frohlocket, auf, preiset die Tage and 43: Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen. I think Bach works his best when smashing the fast stuff, and that was where we too performed better. Maybe we sensed when Bach was on a high, and that motivated us. Maybe his wee ghostie was lurking up in the Gods, looking down on us sneeringly. Who knows? But we definitely grooved in the fast paced items far more than in the slower movements.

bach - was his ghostie with us?

One audience member claims she saw an elderly gentleman (pictured, above) leaving The Gods after City Choir's performance of the Bach Christmas Oratorio. He did not pay for his ticket and is wanted for questioning.

Some of the arias were done beautifully, and a highlight was Aria 39, with the Echo Soprano. Stunning work, especially by the lovely Echo (Catherine, from St. Paul's Cathedral Choir, as a ring-in). Hearing voices work beautifully together is always a pleasure to the senses, and this was an excellent example.

What did I enjoy most? Hard to say, really. I like the tricky stuff, but that's just me. I find the slower, grander stuff a bit on the dull side, and don't really enjoy it as much as the music that rocks along. So I guess I preferred the fast movements. I think the audience preferred them too.

If there was a weakness in the concert, it would be that I did feel that the choir as a whole didn't get 'into' the music as much as we could have. What I mean by that is that it didn't quite feel as though people around me were sensing the pulse and meter of the work as well as they might. Music isn't just about notes and precision - it's about recognising the underlying patterns and beats and feeling that.

When a piece of music gets into you, and you grab it, you really don't have to see the conductor's beat, because it's there inside you. What you watch for instead is interpretation, cut-offs and expression. It's the conductor's face and fingertips, not their arms, that matter, once the music 'clicks' and you get beyond the note-bashing stage. The little timepiece inside you gets going, and the conductor's beat moves in step with your own.

I felt like there were points in this work where we didn't quite get to the stage of having that little clockwork chickybabe (or guy) inside of each of us going ticka ticka ticka ticka, or ta-ta-ta ta-ta-ta ta-ta-ta the whole time. But you probably think I'm a bit of a weirdo for writing all this. It's just the way I work with music, and maybe everyone is different. Heck - maybe I am a weirdo! ;-)

What we did get right was watching for changes in tempo and cut-offs. The Oratorio, as a whole, was pretty neatly done. We watched pretty well, and there weren't too many dragging movements. This is no small achievement in a choir of our size. Getting forward movement happening in a choir this size can sometimes be a bit like herding cats - you really have to push!

Well, we did it! What can we tackle next? If I had my way, I'd be buckling down for a bash at Handel's funkiest piece, Dixit Dominus. Of course, it's not up to me, but I figured it can't hurt to suggest the good stuff as you're all reading this! I'll post a link to a Youtube recording of Dixit. Please take the time to listen - you'll be drooling for a go at Dixit too!

So well done everyone! (Pats self on back). Thanks to all the excellent Sopranos around me. Thanks to the *sigh*worthy Altos, who sounded gorgeous from where I was standing. Thanks to our excellent men, who nailed their entrances, so David didn't have to cut you up into iddy biddy little pieces with a big, big knife after all. Finally, while speaking of the man, thanks to our amazing conductor David, who really deserves a break in the Caribbean after all this, with a few cocktails - and no choristers!

So - whadayareckon - here's Handel's Dixit Dominus. Want to give it a go? "Ohhhhhhhh, yeah" is the correct response!


AlanGirvan said...

The person at the Clinic today said that if you feel light headed when you stand up quickly, you should stand up less quickly.

The choir did not have so many slow movements in this work (apart from the brief chorales.) But the slower movements in the Passions and in the Bminor Mass are awesome.a

AlanGirvan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
daharja said...

Hi Alan - Yes, I was silly. I'll blame genetics and low blood pressure :-( I should know better!

I'm keen to see what the committee have in store for us next year. 2008 has been a lot of fun - I'd never done either the Schubert or the Bach before, although I'd done the Orff quite a number of times. And the chance to perform the Elgar in Christchurch was absolutely wonderful - I adore the piece!

Here's to the completion of a great 2008, and to a fabulous 2009 to come. City Choir has been a wonderful experience for me, as a new member. Everyone has been so welcoming, supportive and friendly. We're a great choir, with some great people, and I've had a brilliant time :-)